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Health, rescue officials encourage locals to learn CPR

By Katie Demeria

WOODSTOCK -- Health educators and fire and rescue officials want the public to understand one important fact about CPR: it saves lives.

Shenandoah Memorial Hospital nurse educator Robin Tusing and Valley Health's CPR educator Kim Campbell are working to help more in the local community understand that.

"Every minute that goes by without CPR after a cardiac arrest decreases the rate of survival by 7 to 10 percent," Campbell said.

In recent years, both Campbell and Tusing have seen a decrease in the number of individuals in the community participating in the hospitals' free CPR classes.

"There's no rhyme or reason to it," Tusing said.

They pointed out that the more people trained to perform CPR, the higher the survival rate within a community.

According to the American Heart Association, 355,000 "out of hospital sudden cardiac arrests occur annually." Eighty percent of those take place at home.

And only 10 percent of those who suffer cardiac arrests outside of the hospital survive.

"It's proven that [CPR] works," Campbell said. "Airports and casinos have 60 and 80 percent survival rates because they train everyone who works there to do CPR, and they have cameras to see immediately when someone has collapsed."

Seattle, she continued, has the highest survival rate in the country because it has such a robust training program, encouraging all of its citizens to be trained. She added that she and Tusing are hoping to do the same in the Northern Shenandoah Valley.

Shenandoah County Fire and Rescue Services Training Officer Bill Streett said the department is planning to offer community training courses within the next month to continue encouraging locals to learn CPR.

Even if fire and rescue crews are able to get to the scene in only a few minutes, Campbell pointed out, the chance of survival still decreases in that time.

"If we can train bystanders to get them to initiate [CPR] before we arrive, and particularly if they have the abilities to put an AED on the patient, that makes the outcome that much better for the patient," Streett said.

Automated external defibrillators are used to send a shock to the patient's heart in the hope that it will start beating on its own. It is used in conjunction with compressions.

Streett said he has worked with six churches so far this year that were interested in training their staff to learn CPR and use AEDs effectively.

Campbell and Tusing said that sort of community effort is exactly what will save the most lives. But even individuals should still be trained, they said, because most cardiac arrests occur at home.

"It's very sad, when we see people come in who just didn't know how to help a family member," Campbell said.

She also said she encourages community members to refresh their CPR knowledge every five years.

Streett said recertification takes place every two years, and his staff usually has a refresher course in the off year.

"The world of CPR is constantly evolving," he said. "Studies are consistently being done to assess the effectiveness in how we're doing CPR and how to increase survivability."

Campbell said, though certification is not necessary for every community member, the American Heart Association updates its CPR standards every five year -- she suggests locals refresh their knowledge and take another community course in that same timeframe, as well.

Campbell and Tusing will be offering community classes, which take about one hour, starting in June. Call 540-536-2254 for more information.

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com

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